Kevin Franklin, director of the Pennington YMCA’s Thanksgiving Holiday Camp Nov. 24-26, said he had about 24 students attending on the last day of camp, “but we had up to 36 at the beginning. As parents get off work, more kids stay home,” he said.

But there were still enough people to form two solid teams — one for football, the other for dodge ball, with very few sitting out.

As the students left the building and assembled by the ball fields, Franklin made the usual announcements.

“If you want to play football, line up here,” Franklin said, pointing to counselor Darius Woodfork.

“If you want to play dodgeball, line up here,” he said, pointing to a break in the picnic tables nearest him.

“If you have a problem, call a what?”

“A counselor,” the students shouted in answer. “And if a counselor can’t solve it, call me. I’ll be around,” he said.

From there, the counselors took over, including Martinique Beach, who was on break from her studies at Southeastern Louisiana University, where she is working on a degree in management and human resources.

She’s getting a lot of practical field experience at the camp, she said. “It’s a challenge, always a challenge. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. I like working with kids — I feel like it makes a difference in their lives,” she said.

Woodfork, who led the football game, said working with children takes patience, above all else.

“And it’s important to understand that each kid is different.”

But for the students participating in the camp, it’s all about having fun and spending time with the new friends they’ve made.

Kai Coleman, 7, “but I’ll be 8 soon,” Helena Nguyen, 6, and Andrea Ngo, 5, sat at a table with Beach and colored while taking a break from dodgeball.

“We’re best friends, we met at camp,” Coleman explained.

The holiday camp also will be available at many YMCA branches, including Pennington, before the Christmas holidays, as well.

For more information, contact a local YMCA.